Magna Reiterates Commitment to Pimlico Race Course; New Track Proposed

Magna Reiterates Commitment to Pimlico Race Course; New Track Proposed
Photo: Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue
Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, at a pro-slots rally earlier this year.

The Maryland Jockey Club and its majority owner, Magna Entertainment, issued a statement Wednesday reiterating their support for Pimlico Race Course at its present location. In the statement, MJC and MEC stated they were unaware of a reported plan introduced by Gov. Robert Ehrlich in which a new track and slots parlor would be build in downtown Baltimore.

"Although the proposal to build a downtown racetrack is obviously preliminary and well-intentioned by those who recognize the importance of horse racing to Maryland and its economy, to date, no State official or State leader has discussed or shared the details of this proposal with MJC or MEC. MJC's and MEC's knowledge of this proposal is limited to what has been reported in the newspapers," the statement said.

"So that the record is perfectly clear on this issue, neither MJC nor MEC have asked the State, or any of its leaders, to build a new racetrack anywhere in Maryland," the release continued. "To the contrary, both MJC and MEC are, and always have been, committed to the revitalization of historic Pimlico Race Course, the traditional and rightful home of the world famous Preakness Stakes. To that end, MJC and MEC recently have invested millions of dollars in improvements at the Pimlico site and in recent months, MJC and MEC sought and obtained approval from Baltimore City for important modifications to the zoning applicable to Pimlico Race Course. These modifications to the Planned Unit Development will allow MJC and MEC to begin expeditiously the process of restoring Pimlico Race Course to its historic grandeur."

Magna and the Maryland Jockey Club also reaffirmed their support for the communities surrounding the existing Pimlico, noting they have "worked diligently with these communities to create a framework for the future of the entire Pimlico community."

The MJC and MEC statement also challenged the $400-million reported estimated cost of a new track-slots parlor.

"...As a factual matter, to build a new racetrack would require approximately 200 acres of land, considerable infrastructure improvements to the proposed area, consideration for the traffic impediments sure to arise with the professional baseball and football teams in the area and, as has been reported in the press, will likely cost in excess of $400 million. The racetrack would also have to provide for the year-round stabling and training of over 1,000 horses on the premises. The timeline for such a project, assuming that there are no insurmountable environmental problems, could well exceed five to seven years and necessitate the condemnation of dozens of businesses and enterprises yet to even be publicly identified."

According to the Associated Press, is pushing for a state-owned racetrack and slot machine parlor in downtown Baltimore as part of his effort to end an impasse over legalized slots.

The proposed facility next to M&T Bank Stadium would cost $400 million and serve as the new home of the Preakness. The Ehrlich administration has completed a preliminary study that details what it would cost to build the track, dubbed Baltimore Gateway International.

The Washington Post reported that Ehrlich himself pitched the specifics of the proposal in a private meeting Sunday with Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch.

Several lawmakers say the idea of a downtown racetrack and could serve as the basis for a compromise on gambling.

Meanwhile, Cecil County commissioners are saying "not so fast" to state lawmakers who want to the county to be a possible slot machine destination.

At a packed meeting Tuesday night in Elkton, commissioners voted 3-2 to oppose casino-style slots in the county -- reversing a 3-2 endorsement slots last month. Commissioner Mark Guns changed his vote.

About 120 people showed up for the meeting. They included members of church and anti-gambling groups who spoke against gambling.

The state Senate has approve a version of the governor's slot machine bill that designates the county as a potential slots site.

A Pennsylvania developer wants to build a shopping and gambling complex on 300-acres next to the I-95 tollbooth in Perryville. The plan has received support from a key slot machine advocate -- Prince George's County Sen. Ulysses Currie.

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